Today was one of the milestones of my work year: delivering professional training to our health and safety inspectors. It was a busy day and we all had to work hard to get the best out of it. But fun was had, as were tea, coffee and scones, the essentials precursors to any meeting or training event in Argyll.
There were three key sessions to deliver to meet our service plan and kick off the Council’s priorities for intervention as a health and safety regulator. I’ve spent the first part of the year designing the new projects and getting them agreed with the team managers who have to deliver them, and the time came today to get things going.
We are clear that, when we roll out a new initiative, we make sure that we’ve got all the necessary information, letter, supporting material, computer coding sorted out as well, so that we can give the inspectors the technical training they need to deliver the interventions as designed. This means that the technical content can be more or less detailed according to the specific project and what we’re seeking to achieve. Once the design stage has been done, it becomes straightforward to deliver the training and for the inspectors to go out and deliver the work.
The three key topics for today were:
- Desktop risk assessment
- Legionella in spa pools, and
- Gas safety in catering premises
Legionella is a priority area for action for health and safety regulators in UK. We’ve identified spa pools as the sector which is most likely to require action to get minimum acceptable standards in place. I read a paper from the Health and Safety Laboratory which analysed Legionella outbreaks over the last ten years, and the outbreaks which had the highest average number of cases were those associated with spa pools.
Gas safety is an area where we’ve identified the need to make sure that all catering establishments have safe installations which are properly inspected and maintained. There’s also a lot of old gas appliances around which are no longer fit to be used, and these need to be dealt with to prevent the risk of fire and explosion. The approach we’re taking is to ensure that employers are complying with their duty under the regulations to have appliances and ventilation systems annually inspected, serviced and certified safe for use. If they’re not, we’ll ask them nicely once to get the installation inspected, and then it’s an improvement notice if they don’t.
The desktop risk assessment is a method we’ve designed locally to review the premises we regulate for health and safety and identify what the most appropriate intervention is in each case. The UK government take the bizarre view that inspections are a burden on business, and therefore we are obliged to assess the compliance of businesses without even setting foot through the door, This is a challenge to say the least, but it does give us the opportunity to review what we do know about businesses and choose other ways of working with them to focus on specific health and safety challenges for those sites. This training event today was the first time that the inspectors used it on real files, and the feedback was pretty positive. The algorithm looks horrid when you first see it, but the method I’ve designed walks an inspector through the process very quickly and comes out with a risk rating and suggestions for intervention ranging from proactive and reactive inspections, to non-inspection interventions and, for the low-risk sites which are unlikely to present significant risks to their employees or the public, return to the filing cabinet for review in due course.
I always do my best to make training fun, so include video clips, jokes and change the pace from talking to group work to practice to general discussion. At the end of the day, we were all tired, but the feedback I got was that people were ready to get on with some health and safety work for a change.
I think we’ve got some real challenges ahead with securing safety in spa pools and catering premises using gas, but we know we’re going to make a difference and make the place safer for workers and visitors to Argyll.